Monthly Archives: February 2013

This Particular Winter

I have to admit that so far, this has been one of my most favorite winters of my life.  Not because anything spectacular has happened, or for that matter anything remotely out of the order, but just because it has been so pretty.  I often take pretty for granted, and I have to remind myself that I am a lucky so-and-so because I get to live in this gorgeous part of the world.  I live next to the largest lake in the world; when she freezes up, it is glorious.  At first she steams, then ice chunks form, then the ferry stops running and soon, if the islanders are lucky, an ice road arrives.  That’s pretty cool.  And that’s just the lake!  To have my morning commute littered with beautiful trees, decked out in a layer of snow is fairly fabulous.  Think lovely actresses at the Oscars wearing diamonds.  No…it’s actually nothing like that, but it is pretty stunning.  I live in what the beer commercials call God’s Country; although, I think God could lay claim to the whole planet if asked, so there you go.  This winter, I have really enjoyed my wood stove, the snow on the trees, the lake freezing up and the big clear night skies.  It has been glorious and really, really pretty.

I haven’t even been the least bit bummed at the latest ridiculously large snow accumulations.   I actually got giddy this part weekend thinking we would get another 10 inches on the ground.  Why not?  I prefer pretty white to the muddy, brown yuk of Spring.  After a strong, solid, snow storm, it’s as if some nurse from the 1950’s (you know the one – all dressed in white, wearing the nurse hat, and squeaky white shoes) came through town with a bucket of bleach and purified everything.  Apparently, my version is Mother Nature is more of a Nurse Ratchet.

When I was a kid, there was a whopper of a snow storm.  I was around 10 and my sister was 14.   We were home alone, and my parents were driving back from Milwaukee.  Like I said, it was a bad storm, and they had gotten into an accident; they were fine, but it meant we were to be left alone overnight.  Due to the blizzard, my parent’s friends couldn’t even drive across town to check on us.  We were absolutely alone for at least 24 hours.  I remember being really excited about this prospect.  I immediately had visions of Laura Ingalls and wondered if we should make a fire, although we didn’t have any wood…  Maybe we should break up a chair with a hatchet and spark it up in the fire-place!  I saw that in a movie once!  My sister quickly put the kibosh on that.  Instead, she made Mac and Cheese and made sure to be close to the phone, as my mother was calling every hour, on the hour to make sure we were OK.  I could tell my sister was getting worried, and silently prayed for my parent’s speedy return, but I remember thinking it was pretty awesome.

We lived close to the lake, so the strong wind was pushing the snow up over the windows on the first floor.  It was as if we were in our own snow fort, if snow forts had a furnace, television and pong.  We couldn’t see out of the house at all, at least on the first floor.  However, funny thing, the light still seemed to find its way through all the snow.  Our family room wasn’t dark at all, but lovely.  Everything seemed to have a magical glow about it.

The next afternoon, my parents came home, exhausted and emotionally thin.  My father started shoveling us out, but before he did, I opened a window to touch the snow wall that had accumulated on the glass.  I held my hands out and touched the snow.  My hand started to melt it, and left a print of it there in the snow.  It was nothing special, and yet it was.

Yesterday, I got caught in some bad weather while picking up Em from a sleepover.  By the time she got in the car, there was about a quarter of an inch of ice on the windows.   After scraping and cursing, I hopped in the car, only to see I missed the windows in back.  In hopes of a lazy miracle, I rolled the windows down, hoping the ice and snow would magically fall off.  It didn’t.  In fact, the ice stayed glued in the same spot as where the window was.  It looked like some sort of modern, hip stained glass one would see in a trendy, uptown bar.  You couldn’t see out of it, but it allowed light into the car.  Slowly, Emily put her hands up and touched the ice and smiled. “Mom!  Check this out!  This is so cool!”   Nothing special, and yet it was.



Filed under Bayfield, Environment, Fall, Holiday, Summer, Winter

My Almost Obsession

In my basement, lurks an old and well-kept secret.  Folks who knew me 20 years ago knew that I collected something, something rather silly, and that it got a little out of hand.  I had to stop.  They know, I know, we don’t speak of it.

More recent acquaintances don’t know about my one-time almost obsession.  I had a problem, I faced it, I moved on.  However, I still have the proof, the evidence, the menagerie, the collection.  I can’t get rid of it.  I kid myself they will be worth something some day, and you know what?  I think they totally will.  In my basement are over 170 Barbie dolls; they are in mint condition and most have never been out of the box.  That’s right, I’m a recovering Barbie girl.

I go through months forgetting about them.  I don’t often think of my little blonde friends packed away safely.  I’m not sure how I can walk pass 16 extra-large plastic bins stacked in my basement, right next to the washing machine, but I do.  I blithely waltz by with a load of whites, not stopping to pay homage to the amazing, colorful beauties packed away in giant Tupperware.  In my own defense, the crates tend to blend in.

A few weeks ago, I had a friend over for dinner and somehow it came up in conversation.  This man I have known for years and years didn’t know anything about the dolls.  He was a bit incredulous until I took him to the basement and opened just one of many plastic tubs.  There, neatly packed in extra-large ziplock bags (to prevent the damp) still in their boxes, were about 20 colorful, flamboyant and somewhat garish Barbie dolls.   He just laughed.  I spent the rest of the evening justifying them because “some of them will be worth something…someday.”

My collection started innocently enough.  Back in 1992, I was writing a comedy sketch for Old Last Night for Big Top Chautauqua.  It was a piece I wrote for Sally Kessler and Tom Mitchell, two well-respected actors.  I thought it would be funny for adults to hold Barbie and Ken dolls, kind of like puppets and do a bit.  It was funny enough – Ken was trying to pick up Barbie, and Barbie was bored, that is until another Barbie walked in.  Then Barbie started admiring Barbie and they ended up leaving together…”Who else could Barbie love but Barbie?”  The kicker?  I needed dolls.

I went out and bought 2 relatively cheap Barbie dolls (One was fairly generic, but the other was a Totally Hair Barbie, one of the all-time best sellers during the 90’s.  I also bought a generic Ken doll – as if there is any other kind, right?) TotallyHairBarbie

It was a funny sketch, although I remember feeling it didn’t get the props it deserved.  It was placed during a big break, so no one was really in the tent when it was performed.  Also, this was before the wireless mic system, so no one could really hear the jokes but other than no one seeing or hearing it, I thought it was a huge success.

As a joke, I kept the dolls on display in our very tiny, small, petite house.  Because the house was so diminutive, the dolls kind of stuck out.  Friends would comment on them, make jokes and put the dolls in compromising positions.  I would kid I was going to start a collection and make it my nest egg for retirement.  It was all in good fun.

Then a week later, my friend Mary showed up with a Wal-mart bag.  She was beaming from ear to ear.  She had something special for me.  As she handed me the bag, she was giddy with excitement.  It was clear she was pretty impressed with herself.  There, in the bag, was a box with that tell-all pink top with the cursive writing in white.  Mary had bought me a Barbie.  This wasn’t just any old “Malibu Barbie” or “Masquarade Barbie” or even “Birthday Barbie. ” Mary bought me a “Troll Barbie.”


Yes, there is such a thing.  The Troll Barbie had a little Troll doll toy with it in the box.  However, the fun doesn’t stop there; the hair on the Troll doll was removable, it also worked in Barbie’s hair as a fashion accessory!  When Mr. Troll was wearing green or blue hair, Barbie could stash the hot pink little wig in her hair!  (Oh, for cute!)  You know why?  Because it had Velcro on it.  What gal wouldn’t want a piece of hot pink polyester and Velcro in her hair?  I loved the kitsch of it; that was the beginning.

After that, friends and family kept an eagle’s eye out for crazy, loony and unique Barbie dolls, and let me tell you, they were out there.  Barbie for President, Astronaut Barbie, Rollerblading Barbie (sparks come out of her blades) and even a Harley Davidson Barbie.   They loved getting me the crazy doll, and I loved getting them.


After acquiring 5 or 6 dolls, I too started to buy my own dolls.  The first “real” Barbie I bought was the Holiday Barbie in 1993.  See, Mattel is really, really good at selling dolls, and making buyers think they are “investing.”  Sure they have the cheaper, flashy dolls for girls, but then they make really stunning and beautiful dolls for women (and some men) to collect.  The boxes are larger, so the full dress can be seen, and the dresses are glamorous and beautiful.  The face molds they use are more rare, and the makeup (i.e. paint) is special and not your everyday pink and blue.  Every year, Mattel releases a Holiday Barbie in November.  I am loath to type how many I actually own.  Suffice to say they are very pretty and I was usually tempted year to year to take her out of the box and put her top of our Christmas tree.  (I didn’t.)


After that, I went on an eight year binge.  I would buy full collections at a time: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady, The Wizard of Oz, you get the idea.

(Side note, I quit buying dolls long before the Twilight and Hunger Games dolls came out but I felt that old twinge when I passed the Barbie display case in a Toys-R-Us last Christmas.  Old Liz would have gobbled those up.)

There are tons and tons of series.  Like I said, Mattel knows what it’s doing.  They put out collector series like a tramp, you know, puts out.

imagesOne of the biggest collections is the Dolls of the World series, because there are just so many countries!  This is a perfect doll for the mom who struggles with her daughter playing with such a stereotype as Barbie, but she can swallow it a little easier if she can learn something about another culture.  (Oh, alright!)  All the better if the child is actually seen in public playing with a darker skinned Barbie.  That makes the mother look multi-cultural and hip.  $(KGrHqZHJFUFC,pYm2uwBQpJC2jD2w~~60_1

There are also the amazing TV series dolls.  Those are particularly difficult for me to avoid, as I am a child who was raised on and by television.  Star Trek, Bewitched, Batgirl, That Girl, I Love Lucy,  and the list goes on and on and on.   I own way, way, way too many of these types of dolls.

My mother-in-law and her family are respectable doll collectors.  Kriner’s aunt Libby has a room just for her dolls.  They are all porcelain and fabulous.  When they heard that I was collecting Barbie Dolls, it was like manna from heaven for them AND for me.

No longer did they have to bother Kriner with “what size is she” and “does she have a Sears poncho?”  After that they relished in picking out dolls for me.  With their help, I am the proud owner of some pretty spectacular dolls.

Did you know Bob Mackey designs for Barbie?  Yup.  They are porcelain.  (He refuses to dress plastic.)  I have a few.   I have some other Designer Collector’s editions from other folks, too.  (Armani, Vera Wang, Louboutin…just sayin’)


My problem reached a point where I realized I was spending more on dolls than say, groceries and bills.  That wasn’t good.  Stopping was simple, because frankly, we didn’t have the space to keep them.

It has been over 15 years since I bought myself a doll, and over 10 since someone bought me one.  The last Barbie I got, and really treasured was when we adopted Em.  Everyone who adopts a girl from China, stays in this one particular hotel, called The White Swan.  That’s because, aside from Western amenities and an abundance of English speakers, it is across the street is the American Consulate, where some of the paperwork is done.  When adoptive parents stay at the White Swan, they get a gift bag, filled with some baby things, some knickknacks and some other lucky baubles.

$(KGrHqUOKj8E342NF85+BOB-rWcV!Q~~_1But, in the bottom of the bag was a box with that tell-all pink top and those white letters in cursive.  Sure enough, there is Barbie holding a little Chinese baby.  I laughed and laughed.  The box got a little smushed in the luggage on the way home, but I figure she may be worth someone on Ebay when Em is ready for college.





Filed under Barbie, Humor